De Alba and Clark Claim USF Pro Championship Wins
 May 27, 2023| 
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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Mexico’s Salvador de Alba and Canadian Mac Clark emerged victorious in front of a large and appreciative crowd yesterday evening in the Carb Night Classic at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park as the USF Pro Championships Presented by Cooper Tires made their one and only visit this season to an oval track.

De Alba, from Guadalajara, Mexico, made a lightning start from third on the grid and went on to win the Freedom 90 USF Pro 2000 Presented by Cooper Tires event over Exclusive Autosport teammate Joel Granfors, from Eskilstuna, Sweden. Local favorite Jack William Miller, from Carmel, Ind., had to settle for third for Miller Vinatieri Motorsports after starting on pole position.

In the earlier USF2000 Presented by Cooper Tires contest, last year’s USF Juniors champion, Mac Clark, from Milton, Ont., Canada sped to an emphatic victory for DEForce Racing in his first-ever oval start.

Evagoras Papasavvas (Jay Howard Driver Development), from Loveland, Ohio, and Simon Sikes (Pabst Racing), from Augusta, Ga., completed the USF2000 podium.

De Alba’s Fast Start Decisive
The outcome of the USF Pro 2000 race was decided within moments of the green flag flying. Miller used his extensive oval experience, dating back to 2019, to claim his first Cooper Tires Pole Award of the season during qualifying yesterday afternoon, but he was unable to hold back a fast-starting de Alba, who quickly muscled his way into the lead of the 90-lap race.

Immediately behind, Francesco Pizzi (TJ Speed Motorsports), from Rome, Italy, also displaced Granfors on the opening lap, moving from fourth into third, although the Swede was able to redress the balance on the 38th lap as the leaders negotiated some slower traffic. The quartet circulated together in the same order until lap 65, when Granfors finally was able to find a chink in Miller’s armor and slip through into second.

The two Exclusive cars then edged clear of Miller and Pizzi before Pizza’s teammate Christian Weir, from Naperville, Ill., lost control in Turn Four after 79 laps and necessitated a full-course caution. Unfortunately, there wasn’t quite enough time for the race to be restarted, so de Alba was declared the winner ahead of Granfors, Miller and Pizzi.

Myles Rowe (Pabst Racing with Force Indy), from Brooklyn, N.Y., maintained his healthy championship lead after passing Michael d’Orlando (Turn 3 Motorsport), from Hartsdale, N.Y., for fifth after 61 laps.

Jonathan Browne, from Dublin, Ireland, continued his strong run of form for Turn 3 Motorsport by securing seventh ahead of Jordan Missig (Pabst Racing), from Channahon, Ill. Missig’s fine effort, having started last in the 18-car field after crashing in qualifying, earned him the Tilton Hard Charger Award.

Michael Duncalfe earned his second successive PFC Award as the winning car owner following Granfors’ victory a couple of weeks ago on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course.

De Alba’s victory vaulted him from ninth in the points table to fourth, only nine points behind teammate Granfors in second.

Provisional championship points after 7 of 18 rounds:
1. Myles Rowe, 165
2. Joel Granfors, 133
3. Francesco Pizzi, 128
4. Salvador de Alba, 124
5. Kiko Porto, 117
6. Reece Ushijima, 101
7. Jack William Miller, 101
8. Jonathan Browne, 101
9. Jace Denmark, 96
10. Lirim Zendeli, 83

Salvador de Alba (#91 Archandel/Red Cola/Mecano/Z Motors-Exclusive Autosport Tatuus IP-22): “It was a very, very good week. We improved the car a lot in the test sessions yesterday, and qualifying was the best of the season in third place. We knew we had a very good race pace. At the start, we managed to get into first place. We stayed there the entire race and managed the tires. Joel, at the end, caught me a little bit and I pushed a lot. We still had good tires and managed to finish it. Congrats to Joel, another one-two for Exclusive Autosport. I am very thankful to my sponsors for making this possible and for sure we are going in the right direction. I hope to be on the podium many times this year.”

Clark Wins USF2000 in his First Oval Start
Mac Clark was imperious in his first-ever start on an oval track, leading throughout yesterday’s Freedom 75 and taking the checkered flag well clear of his rivals.

Clark placed only fifth and seventh in the two test sessions prior to qualifying, but come single-car qualifying, the oval track rookie nailed his two laps perfectly to secure the first Cooper Tires Pole Award of his young career.

The Canadian teenager maintained his advantage at the start and soon began to edge clear of Papasavvas, who started on the outside of the front row of the grid. His lead was trimmed when the caution flags flew after 12 laps, when Danny Dyszelski’s VRD Racing Tatuus came to a stop on the back straightaway, but Clark quickly reasserted himself at the restart.

A series of fast laps, including one that would stand as the fastest of the race, earning him an additional championship point, soon enabled Clark to rebuild his lead, leaving Papasavvas to concentrate his attention on Chase Gardner (Exclusive Autosport), from Prosper, Texas.

But Sikes was the man on the move. After starting ninth following a troubled qualifying, Sikes fought his way steadily forward. He slipped past championship leader Lochie Hughes (Jay Howard Driver Development) after 26 laps, and, following a protracted battle with Gardner, moved into third with seven laps remaining in the 75-lap race.

Sikes’ effort moved him to within four points of Hughes in the battle for a Discount Tire Driver Advancement Scholarship valued at $433,200 to graduate into USF Pro 2000 in 2024. Sikes also claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award.

Clark’s victory secured the first PFC Award of the season for DEForce Racing’s David and Ernesto Martinez as the winning car owners.

While the focus of attention now switches back to the hallowed ground of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for tomorrow’s highly anticipated 107th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, the USF Pro Championships will return to action next month at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The famed road course will host a pair races for each series, to be held in conjunction with the NTT INDYCAR SERIES, on the weekend of June 17/18. In the meantime, drivers on the first step of the ladder, USF Juniors Presented by Cooper Tires, will contest a triple-header event next weekend, June 3/4, at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.

USF2000 provisional championship points after 8 of 18 races:
1. Lochie Hughes, 208
2. Simon Sikes, 204
3. Nikita Johnson, 170
4. Evagoras Papasavvas, 144
5. Mac Clark, 140
6. Sam Corry, 108
7. Chase Gardner, 103
8. Jorge Garciarce, 102
9. Danny Dyszelski, 88
10. Max Garcia, 81

Mac Clark (#1 USF Pro Championships/Valkyrie AI/ARM/Clubine Motorsports/TNG Exotics-DEForce Racing Tatuus USF-22): “To describe a night like tonight, it is hard to put into words. It is incredible. It feels amazing. It has been too long since we have won a race, and now to be on the top step of the podium with these boys and DEForce is great. I have so many people to thank – everyone who has supported my 2023 program. This is why we are racing in this series and this is what we aim to do every weekend. It was a little bit stressful in the car, not really a lot of emotion, and then the last five laps my spotter was telling me plus-five, plus-five and it starts to sink in and you cross the line and it is a wave of emotion. It is the best feeling in the world. This was my first-ever oval race and my first oval win.”

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